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Entries in Adventure (2)

Thursday
Feb092017

ROUGH STUFF

Stars: Gareth Rickards, Vincent Andriano, Sam Glissan, Hayley Sullivan, Katie Garfield, Jamie Kristian, Adam Horner, Bobby Babin and Ernie Dingo.
Writer/Director: Jonathan Adams

Rating: 3.5/5

A raucous, rambling off-road romp that plays unashamedly broad and loud, director Jonathan Adams makes up for a complete disregard for subtlety by delivering a ballsy, sweary celebration of all things alpha-Aussie in his debut effort, the appropriately titled Rough Stuff. Both soft-hearted and tough-as-nails, the ladish adventure so adores its depiction of the ‘Australian Male’, it may stir patriotic yearnings for the rugged bushman of local cinematic lore and emerge as a box office bloke-buster.

From the film’s first images – a kookaburra, a thorny lizard, a vast dusty expanse about to be ravaged by a wild 4WD ‘bush bash’ – Adams and his DOP Jack Crombie make no bones about the sort of tale they are going to tell. Nor do they flinch in referencing influences from our century-old silver screen history. Intentional or otherwise, nods can be found to everything from Crocodile Dundee and Wolf Creek to The Chain Reaction and Ground Zero in Adams’ patchwork plotting, suggesting Rough Stuff is as much a homage to our film heritage as it is a love letter to the land.

Towering over the film in a performance as big as Australia itself is leading man Gareth Rickards, a barrel-chested and naturally gifted screen presence who recalls the square-jawed appeal of past Antipodean 'real men' like Andrew Clarke and Errol Flynn. Rickards plays ‘Buzz’, a contemporary incarnation of colonial bush-lifers known as ‘Rovers’, a man who has dedicated his life to searching for a mythical deposit called Stray’s Gold, his best mate Abe (Vincent Adriano) by his side. When an eco-activist documentary crew entice Buzz and Abe (alongside Sam Glissan’s trusty mechanic Scraps) to guide them through treacherous bushland with a map to the legendary mother lode, the duo reluctantly sign on.

Villains in blue-collar adventures such as Rough Stuff can be spotted a bush mile away. Pony-tailed, clean-shaven vegan Eric (Jamie Kristian) and snooty offsider Tom (Adam Horner) have ulterior motives which have little to do with a gold strike; they have coerced an out-of-her-depth Tori (a particularly fine Hayley Sullivan) to tag along and teach her mining magnate father Daniel Madsen (Bob Babin) a lesson in green terrorism. Not in on the ruse, spunky documentarian Skye (Katie Garfield) finds herself caught up in the increasingly dangerous events.

Adams’ deftly sets up a strong set of principal characters, exhibiting natural skills as a storyteller, before a cumbersome third act stalls the momentum. Throw in a mysterious, menacing vigilante figure called ‘The Ranger’ who appears intermittently and it becomes increasingly evident that not all story strands and character arcs are going to gel. International territories beckon, given the flavoursome Aussie imagery and Rickards’ broad-shouldered He-man hero, though sales agents are likely to demand some judicious trimming of the 119 minute running time.

Shortcomings aside, Rough Stuff proves an always engaging, rousing tale that celebrates the spirit of our bush folk without a hint of irony. It is not a film for the ‘cultural cringe’ crowd, that elitist niche who resent any depiction of our population as descendants of rough’n’tumble rural folk. But nor is it meant for them. In one of the most impressive calling card pics in recent memory, Jonathan Adams has rediscovered and contemporised the charms of a terrific bush yarn.

Friday
Jun292012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Sam Claflin and Eddie Marsan.
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini.
Director: Rupert Sanders

Rating: 3.5/5

An expansive retelling of the Brothers Grimm classic, Snow White and The Huntsman takes its most impactful beats from such post-modern literary adaptations as 1998s The Man in the Iron Mask and Peter Jackson’s …Rings trilogy, as well as vivid fantasy imaginings such as Willow and Ladyhawke. That it doesn’t really nail a flavour all its own is ok; it mimics the best bits of other movies so well, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had even if none of it substantially resonates.

There are incongruities that should sink first-time director Rupert Sanders’ big, ballsy mash-up of feminine generational conflict and throne-room treachery. Kristen Stewart is both too old to convince as a virginal vision of purity and too small to be an armour-clad leader of misfit revolutionaries, but she makes it work; there’s a lean mid-section to the film that belies its meagre fairy tale origins, but the padding-out of these scenes is expertly done; and, as the evil witch-queen Raveena, who yearns to consume the essence of her fairer foe, Charlize Theron chews the scenery like a termite plague – and is all the more awesome for it.

An opening sequence that steeps the film in ruthless royal intrigue and murderous betrayal sets the tone for a narrative that may prove a little too dark for the wee ones who were enchanted by Disney’s “hi-ho-ing” animated take. A stepmother usurping the kingdom of a monarch she murders and imprisoning his princess, rightful heiress to the land, then existing in youthful perpetuity by sucking the rich soulfulness of her subjects certainly makes for a compelling set-up. But parents, beware; under 10’s will spend more of the 125 minute running time averting their eyes than you may have expected.

As a blossoming Snow White, It-girl Stewart affords us glimpses of the compelling screen actress she is destined to become. Her strong presence and china-doll bone-structure recalling a young Nicole Kidman, she exudes a teary innocence in the film’s early stages before transforming into a warrior princess. One can’t dismiss her mousiness – she is definitely not physically right for the role – but it is impossible not to be compassionate for her plight, so engaging is her star power. As The Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth confidently continues his ascension to stardom, his brawniness recalling a young, in-his-prime Nick Nolte.

Tech credits, especially the work of the visual effects team, are superlative. The morphing of full-size actors such as Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Toby Jones into a feisty band of dwarves is seamless; an extended sequence set in a fantastical netherworld, whilst thin on plotting, is a sight to behold. Grandly-staged battle sequences that lead to the film’s denouement are suitably exciting.